Posts Tagged ‘Coney Island’

Vestie Davis Cyclone

Vestie Davis (1903-1978) oil on canvas painting of the Cyclone roller coaster. Fontaine’s Auction Gallery

We’ve come across paintings of Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel and original Thunderbolt roller coaster but rarely any of the legendary Cyclone. Are its classic twists, turns and drop as much of a dare for a painter as they are for a rider? This one painted in the 1960s by self-taught artist Vestie Davis (1903-1978) will be up for bid at a November 15th auction in Pittsfield, Mass., at Fontaine’s Auction Gallery, and online via Live Auctioneers.

“I use very, very good paints–only the best–guaranteed to last,” Davis told New York Magazine in 1969. His method of painting was to make a sketch with India ink from a photograph and then transfer it to canvas using tracing paper and a light board. He began adding people to his paintings of New York scenes upon an art dealer’s recommendation.

Davis’s paintings of Coney’s beach, boardwalk and amusement rides have appeared on a New Yorker cover and are in the collection of the American Museum of Folk Art.

Measuring 16 inches high by 19.5 inches wide, the oil painting of the Cyclone is signed “Vestie Davis, 1965” and has a pre-sale estimate of $1,500-$2,500.

Related posts on ATZ…

April 20, 2015: Art of the Day: “Greetings from Coney Island” Blends Past & Present

December 13, 2014: Art of the Day: David Levine’s Watercolors of Coney Island

April 3, 2014: Rare & Vintage: 100-Year-Old Coney Island Ride Tickets

January 13, 2012: Rare & Vintage: Reginald Marsh Photos of Coney Island

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Coney Island Bowery

On Coney Island’s Bowery, indie amusement operators put up pennants for Memorial Day 2015. Will they be back in 2016? May 23, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Thor Equities’ CEO Joe Sitt is expanding his Coney Island empire by buying up three Bowery lots on both sides of West 12th Street. ATZ has learned that longtime property owner Jeff Persily and partner Matthew Weinberg are in contract with Thor to sell their property at 1105 Bowery (309 W 12th St), 1205 Bowery and 1207 Bowery. According to the agreement, the scheduled closing date is December 18, 2015.

The acquisition has set off speculation that the Bowery buildings are destined for a date with the wrecking ball, as one of Thor’s long vacant lots on West 12th Street is zoned for a 30-story hotel. With the purchase of 1105 Bowery, which stretches from West 12th Street to Jones Walk, Thor will own the entire block bounded by Surf Avenue and the Bowery with the exception of one privately owned lot on Jones Walk. Apart from the current tenants of 1105 Bowery, the rest of the Thor-owned lots and buildings on the block are vacant due to rent increases, evictions and demolitions that began in 2007 and culminated in 2010.

1205 Bowery Coney Island

Water Race Game and Gyro Corner are among the tenants at 1205-1207 Bowery, which is being bought by Thor Equities. November 1, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

A few days before Halloween, Weinberg met with some of their Bowery tenants, which include a bar and grill, food stands, games and photo and souvenir booths. He informed them the property was sold and that a Thor rep would contact them, setting off rumblings in the Coney Island Rumor Mill. Who will get to stay, for how long, and at what price? Some tenants were told to expect “a moderate rent increase,” sources tell ATZ.

The block where 1105 Bowery is located includes the vacant lot on West 12th across from Coney Island USA where the demolished Bank of Coney Island stood from 1923 until 2010, and the lot where the boarded up Grashorn Building, Coney Island’s oldest building, remains. The bank lot was rezoned for a hotel up to 30 stories, effectively dooming the historic building. Despite public outcry and a NY Times editorial against a wall of hotels on the south side of Surf, which will cast long shadows on the amusement zone, the Bloomberg administration pushed it through. The big beneficiary was Thor Equities’ Joe Sitt, who owns two of the Surf Avenue lots zoned for hotels.

A Winner Every Game

A Winner Every Game. This Water Race on Jones Walk is one of the tenants at 1105 Bowery, Coney Island. June 21, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Tenants at 1205-1207 Bowery include Gyro Corner and neighboring games and souvenir stands on West 12th Street. At 1105 Bowery, tenants are Margarita Island Bar & Grill, the 5D cinema, frozen yogurt, a basketball and dart games, water races, a food stand on the corner of Jones Walk and a photo booth and tattoo shop. Gyro Corner was on the Boardwalk, where Nathan’s is now, until Thor sold the property to the City’s Economic Development Corporation, which turned it over to Zamperla. Gyro was among five Boardwalk businesses that got the boot. So did Beer Island, which was reborn last year as Margarita Island on the Bowery.

Margarita Island

On Coney Island’s Bowery, Margarita Island and neighboring games getting ready for Memorial Day Weekend 2015. May 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Margarita Island owner Carl Muraca is optimistic about being back in 2016. He said Thor’s rep told him that “Joe Sitt knows you love Coney Island as much he loves Coney Island and he’s glad to have you there. We had a very positive conversation,” Muraca told ATZ. He is also a former Thor tenant, having owned Faber’s Fascination in the Henderson Building, a year-round arcade which lost its lease when the building was demolished. Muraca later moved his arcade to another Thor building, now vacant, on Surf.

Thor Equities also owns the lots on the south side of the Bowery, from West 12th Street to West 15th Street. On the north side, Thor properties include the building housing the Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade and Thor’s new “Retail Ride of A Lifetime” building where the Brooklyn Nets Shop and Wahlburger’s represent the new Coney Island’s displacement of amusements for shiny new retail and franchises.

Jones Walk Coney Island

Still open for business: Airbrush Tattoo stand on Jones Walk is a tenant at 1105 Bowery. November 1, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

We are keeping our fingers crossed that the Bowery’s Mom & Pops will be able to afford to stay in their spots next season and get more than a one-year reprieve. All are survivors who’ve had to move multiple times due to changes in property ownership leading up to and since the City’s Coney Island Rezoning of 2009. With redevelopment on the horizon for these blocks, the Bowery could be the last stand for some of these small businesses. As we reported in “The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks” (ATZ, November 2, 2013), an amusement business owner who had leased a small stand on the Walk from Thor in 2008 told us in 2009 that the rent had tripled from $8,000 to $24,000. He declined the space and left Coney Island, never to return.

Jones Walk, Off season

Jones Walk, off season. The long vacant Thor-owned Grashorn building, Coney Island’s oldest on the right. November 4, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

October 29, 2015: Environmental Assessment Underway at Coney Island’s Shore Theater

October 20, 2015: Goodbye Ghost Hole, MCU Parking Lot? City’s Coney Land Grab Not Just Vacant Land

September 2, 2013: The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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Coney Island Colorado

Coney Island Colorado Diner, Bailey, CO. Photo © RoadsideArchitecture.com

The historic 1960’s hot-dog shaped Coney Island Boardwalk restaurant in Bailey, Colorado, is up for sale again. Somebody is going to be sorry they didn’t buy it in 2011. The asking price is triple what it was back then, making it perhaps the priciest hot dog ever. According to local news reports, owner Ron Aigner is retiring and has listed the property for $1,495,000.

The diner’s designer Marcus Shannon of Lakewood, Colorado, planned a chain of hot dog diners and filed a patent for the design in 1965. The eatery was originally located on West Colfax in Denver. Since 1970, the Coney Island Boardwalk has been on scenic US Highway 285, first in Aspen Park and then in Bailey, about 30 miles southwest of Denver. The bun is 35 feet long and the hot dog 42 feet. Made of concrete-and-steel, this fine example of novelty architecture weighs a hefty 18 tons.

The building has been hailed as “the best example of roadside architecture in the state” by Thomas J. Noel, a Professor of History and Director of Public History, Preservation & Colorado Studies at the University of Colorado. In reply to ATZ’s email when the hot dog diner first went up for sale, Noel (aka “Dr. Colorado”) wrote: “We Coloradans should rally to save one of our greatest culinary landmarks, a most delicious morsel of pop roadside art. Hot Dog! Don’t let the Coney Island die.”

The first photo in this post was taken by our friend RoadsideNut, a New Yorker who has extensively documented America’s roadside architecture on her website. Check out the Burgers and Hot Dogs page, where the Coney Island in Colorado appears along with Top Dog, Giant Burger and other architectural wonders.

Broker Jim Urban posted a video tour of the Coney Island Boardwalk diner property on YouTube:

Related posts on ATZ…

November 18, 2014: ATZ’s Guide to Coney Island’s Honorary Walks and Places

June 10, 2014: What’s New at Paul’s Daughter: Lobster Rolls, Mama Burger Fundraiser, LEDs

January 28, 2011: Colorado’s Hot Dog-Shaped Coney Island Boardwalk Diner For Sale

January 19, 2010: Nathan Slept Here! Coney Island’s Feltman’s Kitchen Set for Demolition

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Coney Island Polar Bear Club

Greetings from Coney Island! Coney Island Polar Bear Club poses for group photo before their first swim of the season on November 1, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Sunday, the 112-year-old Coney Island Polar Bear Club went for their first swim of the 2015-2016 season on the same day the amusement rides went for their last spin of the year. Today, Mayor de Blasio gave the Polar Bears a shout-out in a release for NYC & Company’s new winter tourism campaign. Called Unlock NYC and taglined “Find a Winter Less Ordinary,” the campaign was launched on Monday at World Travel Market in London.

“There are endless reasons to love New York City in every season, but something special happens when the snow falls – from Lunar New Year celebrations in Flushing and the tree lighting in Rockefeller Center, to watching the Polar Bear Club brave the frigid waters on Coney Island,” says Mayor Bill de Blasio in the release. “People from around the world feel the pull of New York City, and with Unlock NYC visitors can find the hidden gems – the New Yorker’s New York – and experience our city on a budget.”

New Year's Day Polar Bear Dip at Coney Island

He Did It! Annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear Dip at Coney Island Attracts Thousands. January 1, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita

On January 1st in Coney Island, people travel from near and far to welcome the New Year by joining the Polar Bears’ annual dip in the icy Atlantic. “I believe we had approximately 2,500 swimmers participate, very similar to last year,” Dennis Thomas, president of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club told ATZ a few days after this year’s swim. The event attracted just as many spectators and raised more than $70,000 for Camp Sunshine, where children with life-threatening illnesses can enjoy a summer vacation.

The Coney Island Polar Bears, who have about 125 members, swim on Sundays at 1pm from November through April. If you want to join them for the 2016 New Year’s Day Dip or as a guest at a Sunday swim, here’s how.

Coney Island Polar Bear Club

Coney Island Polar Club’s first swim of the 2015-2016 season. November 1, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

January 2, 2014: Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge’s Best Dressed of 2014

January 1, 2013: Videos of the Day: Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Day Plunge 2013

January 3, 2012: Record 3,000 “Do It” at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

December 18, 2011: Playing Santa at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

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Wonder Wheel and Spook-A-Rama Skeleton

Deno’s Wonder Wheel and Spook-A-Rama Skeleton. September 7, 2015.

Happy Halloween! Thanks to the extended season and the spooky holiday falling on a Saturday, which hasn’t happened in several years, Spook-A-Rama is open on Halloween Weekend for the first time ever. Coney Island’s legendary 60-year-old dark ride adjacent to Deno’s Wonder Wheel opens at 12 noon.

November 1st is the last day of the season for Coney Island’s two amusement parks – Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and Luna Park – which are scheduled to reopen on Coney’s traditional opening day, Palm Sunday, March 20, 2016. This weekend is your last chance to go for a first date or get engaged on the Wonder Wheel and brave the Cyclone roller coaster in 2015.

Related posts on ATZ…

December 23, 2013: Coney’s Parachute Jump & Wonder Wheel Lit for Christmas

November 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

March 29, 2013: Spook-A-Rama Revival: Vintage Cyclops Meets New Dragon

March 13, 2013: Coney Island 2013: New Ghouls Mingle with Old in Rebuilt Spook-A-Rama

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Shore Theater

Coney Island’s Shore Theater in the days after Hurricane Sandy. November 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Can the Shore Theater, vacant for 40 years and designated a New York City landmark in 2010, be saved? On Monday, a group of people armed with bolt cutters cut the locks on a side door and went inside to find out. Sources on the scene told ATZ that one member of the group claimed they plan to buy and rehab the property as a hotel, restaurant and retail and need to find out if it is salvageable or beyond repair. Accompanying them was Kelly Floropoulos of Amiantos Environmental, whose firm does environmental site assessments. Reached by phone, Ms. Floropoulos told ATZ, “I can’t disclose any information. We’re still in the preliminary stages of assessment. It will take a few weeks.”

Shore Theater

Homeless encampment under the sidewalk shed at the Shore Theater. July 30, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

When the building was about to win landmark designation in 2010, we wrote “March 23: Rescuing Coney Island’s Shore Theater from 35 Years of Neglect” (March 8, 2010). However, five more years of neglect have followed. A sampling of complaints to the DOB since then has included homeless encampment residing on a regular basis on the sidewalk shed and inside the building accessing by a ladder, safety concerns for the homeless as well as the public, windows unboarded, doors ripped, scaffold area is dark and unmaintained, falling debris.

The mystery buyer said he was one of the owners of the lot on the north side of Surf across from the Cyclone. A phone call to PYE Properties, which has a sign up advertising Coming Soon Retail Stores for Rent on the undeveloped lot, yielded no info. “I don’t know what you’re referring to,” said a spokeswoman. “Call back in a month.”

Shore Theater

Shore Theater. June 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

September 29, 2015: Will 1938 Art Moderne Gem Become Coney Island’s Only Landmark Outside of Amusement Area?

May 4, 2015: Boardwalk Bunco: Milan Expo’s USA Pavilion Has Boardwalk from Coney Island, Brooklyn to Get Plastic & Concrete

March 11, 2015: In Coney Island, Two Stores and One NYC Landmark Mark 95th Year

November 18, 2014: ATZ’s Guide to Coney Island’s Honorary Walks and Places

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Circus mermaids and freaks, Coney Island sideshows, and a traveling circus and carnival take center stage in this trio of literary novels that we read over the summer. Wondrous and horrific by turn, these stories will have you turning their pages well past the witching hour.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. St. Martin’s Press, 2015. Hardcover, $26.99.

The Book of SpeculationErika Swyler’s The Book of Speculation is a suspenseful novel that combines some of our favorite things — traveling shows, sideshow performers, mermaids, family secrets and rare books. The rare book is the 17th century log of a traveling circus which the narrator receives in the mail from a stranger along with a mysterious message: “A name inside it–Verona Bonn–led me to believe it might be of interest to your family.” The women in Simon Watson’s family, including his mother and grandmother, were circus mermaids who drowned, always on July 24. The novel alternates between the magical tale of Simon’s ancestors documented in the logbook and his present life on Long Island, where he is in danger of losing both his job as a librarian and his family’s historic home. As the date of his mother’s death approaches, Simon becomes convinced that his sister, who ran off with a carnival, is doomed to drown as well. Can the revelation of a family secret save them both?

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman. Scribner, 2014. Hardcover, $27.99; Paperback $16.00.

Museum of Extraordinary ThingsCoralie, the enchanting heroine of Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things, was born with webs between her fingers. Pressed to perform as a “human mermaid” in her father’s museum of freaks and curiosities in early 20th century Coney Island, she escapes after hours by swimming the Hudson River. Sightings of “a sea monster” become a tabloid mystery. Coralie’s story unfolds parallel with that of Eddie Cohen, a Jewish immigrant living on the Lower East Side who works as a newspaper photographer and fishes the river for his supper. It’s clear that their worlds are going to intersect and they are destined to fall in love, but that doesn’t lessen the allure. First published in 2014, Hoffman’s novel was on the New York Times bestseller list and was the Long Island Reads selection for 2015. Set in 1911, the year of both Manhattan’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and Coney Island’s Dreamland Fire, the story has an authentic ring to it. Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson was among the early readers of the manuscript.

Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry. Ecco/HarperCollins, 2015. Hardcover, $26.99.

Church of MarvelsThe Church of Marvels of the novel’s title is an 1890’s Coney Island sideshow, but the sideshow has burned to the ground and its proprietor Friendship Willingbird Church is dead before the book begins. Her twin daughters Belle, a beautiful contortionist and sword swallower, has fled to Manhattan, while Odile, who was born with a curvature of the spine, struggles to make a living as the Target Girl on Coney’s Wheel of Death. Initially, we were disappointed the novel did not have more scenes set in Coney Island or the sideshow, as we had anticipated. Leslie Parry’s exquisite prose and the surprising twists and turns of the narrative won us over. Odile’s quest to find her missing sister takes us inside the lunatic asylum on Blackwell’s Island and the tenements and opium dens of the Lower East Side before circling back home to Coney Island.

Related posts on ATZ…

May 17, 2015: Summer Reading: Undertow by Michael Buckley

December 1, 2014: Autumn Reading: Ward Hall – King of the Sideshow!

November 22, 2014: Autumn Reading: The Brooklyn Theatre Index of Coney Island, Brighton Beach & Manhattan Beach

November 10, 2014: Autumn Reading: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island

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